The Court of Appeal has agreed to hear the case of a personal injury law firm that lost a £4.5m claim against a legal expenses insurance underwriting agency that the expected number of referrals did not materialise.
As we reported in June, Sheffield-based PM Law failed to convince the High Court that there was a contractually binding oral promise in place with Motorplus from 2006 to 2011, when referral fees were lawful.
The appeal was granted on the grounds that the case “raises a point of contractual interpretation which the judge himself found attractive although following refection he rejected it”.
The written agreement stated: “In consideration for the referral fees by PM Law Ltd Solicitors as set out in clause 4 of this agreement Motorplus Ltd shall refer a quantity of road traffic accident, accident at work, public or private liability and product liability PI & Non PI claims.”
Sir Richard Field, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, said he was “at first attracted to the proposition” that this was a promise by Motorplus to deliver a reasonable quantity of referrals.
But “on further reflection”, and taking all the facts into account, he concluded that the agreement only expressed an intention, rather than a guarantee.
In giving leave to appeal, Lord Justice Lewison said the appeal “has real prospects of success”.
However, Lewison LJ rejected PM Law’s argument that the trial judge reached an unreasonable decision in finding that the evidence of its then senior partner, Donald Mackay, was not sufficiently reliable to be accepted.
A spokeswoman for PM Law said: “We are naturally delighted with the decision of Lewison LJ and will pursue our appeal vigorously.”
A Motorplus spokesman said: “Whilst we are disappointed at permission being granted to PM Law to appeal June’s ruling by Sir Richard Field, we note that permission is only granted on ground three with permission on grounds one and two being refused.
“We are confident that once the appeal is heard in full, the original ruling by Sir Richard Field will remain in place.”